GOP candidates tackle foreign policy at debate
A day after the latest Republican presidential debate, the candidates and the White House continue to trade attacks. The debate, which was broadcasted on CBS Saturday evening, was seen as make or break for some candidates, and they saved most of their punches for the Obama administration. CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford recaps what happened at the debate.
It was the 10th Republican debate, but the first to focus solely on foreign policy--to test which of these candidates could be trusted the most to handle that 3 A.M. phone call in the White House.
The issues were complex and the answers serious.
"This is a very dangerous time," said Michele Bachmann.
There were no gimmicks or slogans, and no real jabs thrown. When given the chance to take a shot at frontrunner Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich pulled back his punch.
"We're here tonight to talk to the American people about why every single one of us is better than Barack Obama," said Gingrich.
Throughout the debate, the candidates sharply criticized President Obama and made clear their differences were stark.
"If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding," said Bachmann."I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country."
Romney offered his thoughts on Iran. "Our current president has made it very clear that he's not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly. I will take a different course."
"There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb," said Gingrich.
There were no obvious stumbles--- Governor Rick Perry even joked about his brain freeze in the last debate.
"Governor Perry," asked debate moderator and CBS Evening news anchor Scott Pelley, "you advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy. If you eliminate the Department of Energy--"
"Glad you remembered it," said Perry with applause in the background.
"I've had some time to think about it, sir." (laughter)
"Me, too." (laughter)
Needing a solid performance, Perry came down strong on the issue of foreign aid-triggering criticism from rivals.
"The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is going to start at zero dollars," he said. He later clarified he didn't mean that Israel would lose American dollars.
"Israel is a special ally. My bet is we will be funding them at some substantial level."
On the tough questions, Herman Cain said he would listen to his generals. But when would he overrule them?
"I feel that I'll be able to make that assessment when we put together the cabinet and all of the people from the military, et cetera."
Perry and Cain have the least amount of foreign policy experience, and it sometimes showed last night-although both avoided any major missteps. The two with the best showing: Once again, that honor goes to Romney and Gingrich.
- Jan Crawford
Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.Follow on Twitter »
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